Student & Athlete Defense attorneys Susan Stone and Kristina Supler spoke with Brad Koffel Sunday on his show, For the Defense With Brad Koffel, regarding the future of education in the COVID-19 era and beyond. Their segment begins at roughly the 22:05 mark. View the transcript below.
Brad: We have on on the line… attorney Susan Stone in Cleveland. And Susan, I believe you have one of your partners with you?
Susan Stone: I do. I have Kristina Supler, the other half of the dynamic duo here in Cleveland. Thanks, Brad for having us.
Brad: Well, it’s a thrill. And for those of you that don’t know, these two lawyers are arguably two of the top in America on education law, civil rights, Title IX. They’re not afraid to sue any university or school district that is violating any student rights. And they’re wonderful and I refer cases to them and they are absolutely five-star. And they love what they do.
But in most parts of America, Susan, children have been out of school since the middle of March and in-person learning has been canceled. And now with the wave of summer camp closures rippling across the country, there’s a raging debate over whether schools will… what type of position there’ll be in the fall. Talk about K through 12, but also we have college kids and their parents who have spent tens of thousands of dollars for their kids to live and learn on campus. And they’re starting to reach a conclusion that this isn’t what they paid for, distance learning and the value proposition of higher education. Let’s talk about K through 12. Susan, what do we need to know here going into this? If you’re advising a superintendent or a school board or even the governor.
Susan Stone: So we’ll have to look at the Ohio statute 3313.48 that provides for free education. And what that statute states, Brad, is that the board of education in each city shall provide for the free education of youth within the district. And that schools are supposed to be open for so many hours. Basically for little ones in kindergarten, it’s 455 days up to, you got over a thousand hours once you get into high school.
Now, the districts that are going to argue that Open for Education is the same as distance learning in this time of COVID-19. That sounds great in reality, but what does it look like in practice in the homes across the state and across the country? And I’m here to tell you, as an education lawyer, is this, this is going to be creating issues for our children that are going to last far beyond COVID. Kristina, why don’t you even talk about what it’s like for your little kids in your house?
Kristina Supler: Sure. Fortunately, I am in a situation, I have two young children and they’re both very motivated and self-directed, but nonetheless, especially for little ones, the bottom line is, doing distance learning at home with a parent working, it’s just not the same as being in school. And I think you couple the changes in learning with trauma, emotional fallout from the closure of schools, kids missing their friends, parents perhaps being laid off and experiencing financial struggle. The bottom line is learning at home, distance learning, is not the same as the whole emotional-social education experience that children have when they’re in a school building.
Brad: We’re listening to attorneys, Susan Stone and Kristina Supler. Cleveland-based education lawyers, Title IX civil rights, and they are wonderful advocates for their clients. Susan, you brought up to me on the phone yesterday when we spoke, special education services. Talk a couple of minutes about that, Susan and Kristina.
Susan Stone: Sure. So the federal government has a statute called IDEA, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, and in that act, basically all states are required to deliver to students a free, appropriate public education, to students with disabilities. In that you’re supposed to receive, if you’re a student with disabilities, an individualized education plan that gives special education and related services. Speech therapy, occupational therapy, social skills therapy. Now, the department of education is basically saying, under Betsy DeVos, “Schools do your best.” But in practical terms, what does that mean for a student with disabilities? If you’re autistic and you require socialization, that cannot be done in all practical purposes, when you’re sitting at home. They’re saying for blind students, it’s okay, you can pick up the phone and give education through the telephone. It’s a disaster for kids-
Brad: Susan, what about ADD/ADHD? That seems to be the number one diagnosis that I see in my practice with 504 IEPs.
Susan Stone: There’s a new syndrome out called Toxic Stress and Toxic Stress, basically is the way the brain reacts to any type of stress, much like PTSD. And they’re finding with students, they’re now feeling this Toxic Stress worse. And if you’re ADHD and you’re trying to learn and sit there and focus through the lens of a computer, they’re saying the stress level is reaching proportions that we have never seen. And it is actually worse giving them this distance learning than no learning at all, because the anxiety, the stress levels are reaching a all time high. And they’re saying that these students are not absorbing any of the curriculum or very little of the curriculum. It’s almost impossible for a student with ADD to handle sitting in a chair, focusing on a screen.
Kristina Supler: And I would say the reality is, how many of us have homes where there’s a spot or a location free of distraction, where students, particularly little ones, can sit down and try to, again, dive into schoolwork? I mean, we’re surrounded by distraction day in and day out.
Susan Stone: Dogs barking, siblings on different schedules, parents on computers. Oh my gosh. Even the washing machine going is a distraction.
Kristina Supler: I confess myself, having done some laundry and unloaded a dishwasher or two along the way, while I’m trying to work and take care of the kids and everything else.
Brad: Yeah. And now that a lot of parents are going back to work and if we’re going to have kids, let’s say one of the concepts is that 50% of the school population is going on these days, the other 50% are going on these days. By default you’re going to have a large chunk of homeschooling, home learning. And if the parents are gone, if it’s a one-parent household or a two-parent household, and they’re back at work, who steps in to take care of those kids a lot of times? Grandparents, the very people we’re trying to protect.
Susan Stone: Well, I was just going [inaudible 00:07:26]. What if you have a grandparent who is above the age of 65 or so, come into a home where people are going in and out of their workplaces? That’s not a good idea or a good solution.
Brad: Well, where can our listeners get more information? Your website is loaded. Is it just kjk.com?
Susan Stone: Yes. You can find us under… Type on our name, Susan Stone or Kristina Supler at kjk.com. We are putting out blogs, we are putting out podcasts, videos and we’re trying to stay on top of all of these issues.
Brad: That’s where I go for a lot of my information, kjk.com. Susan Stone, Kristina Supler, both fantastic lawyers. Thanks for stepping in on our show today and giving us some good information. Have a great rest of your evening.
Kristina Supler: Thanks, Brad.
Susan Stone: [crosstalk] happy information for you, Brad. It’s not looking good out there.
Brad: I know. I know. We’ll talk to you soon, no doubt.